Susan Sakash: Cultivating a Solidarity Economy Within the New Orleans Local Food Systems

9636672209_d5b859de9f_zI came to Goddard knowing that I wanted to study alternative economies. After a decade working in non-profit fund development, I wanted to figure out how to shift these skills and tools towards developing democratic strategies for building community wealth that challenge, rather than reinforce, the inequities of a capitalist system. Though my studies have taken many paths, the overarching drive behind my Goddard studies is to step up my commitment to doing whatever I can, on a individual and community level, to put pressure on the fissures opening within the decaying system of neo-liberal capitalism by lifting up and making visible post-capitalist relationships and exchanges that are happening everywhere, in both highly visible and less noticed ways. A tall order for sure, but one which Goddard has encouraged, challenged and helped me focus!

This semester I am diving deep into new territories even as I also round out some of the alternative economies research I started in G2. Specifically this semester I have been immersing myself in the writings of popular educators, critical pedagogues, and participatory action researchers to understand how these liberatory practices have spurred and activated social change and community self-determination particularly within marginalized communities in the U.S. South.  By tracing the ways that the roots of institutionalized racism are intertwined with inequity in our schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces, these practices empower people to create community-based solutions and advocate for change.

The tools and strategies of critical pedagogy and popular education models speak to me as a kind of community-envisioned and enacted social innovation and one which I believe can be employed to move forward developments within what is being called the solidarity economy, particularly as it plays out in the local food system here in New Orleans. Inclusivity and attention to race and class-based inequity are essential to creating a truly just and sustainable local food system in this city AND to ensuring that the new New Orleans is one that all New Orleans has had a hand in making.

Towards that end, I am particularly interested in the role of youth, and particularly young people of color, in defining what the solidarity economy looks like here in New Orleans. Do young people resonate with the language that has been developed by proponents of the solidarity economy framework as it currently exists in the U.S.?  If not, what are the words, phrases and images they would use to describe the kind of economic future they envision as workers and leaders?  What does meaningful work look like here in New Orleans and how does the local food sector (and the New Orleans food and culture tourist economy as a whole) need to shift to ensure young people have a place at the table?

Towards that end, part of my thesis will be a toolkit of workshop modules and strategies 7938512512_cd14f3909a_zfor young people and their mentors to use as they develop their economic identities within, and visions for, a local food system reoriented towards principles and practices that value people and our planet over profit.  This semester I am collaborating with the Grow Dat Youth Farm, a four-year old organization that nurtures young leaders through the meaningful work of growing food on a four acre urban farm in New Orleans’ City Park (www.growdatyouthfarm.org). Part of our collaboration entails the creation and facilitation of a series of workshops for their leadership program and staff professional development.  And as important, these workshops will advance the organization’s goals of deepening young peoples’ knowledge of personal financial literacy, the history of cooperativism and mutual aid as a form of community resistance and self-determination in the South, and access to employment and leadership opportunities in the growing local food movement in New Orleans.

As a newcomer to New Orleans, I am continually blown away by the long and rich legacy of community efforts to build and rebuild the parts of this city that are broken thanks to the equally long legacy of institutionalized racism.  Every day I read or hear of how people have come together through story circles, street performance, alternative economic exchange, and creative protest to share knowledge, resist oppression, and offer scaled solutions.  Every day I feel motivated to seek out these moments and instances of hope and add my efforts to the mix to counter the steady stream of social entrepreneurial (yet ultimately still capitalist) rhetoric and urban redevelopment planning papers that threaten to widen the gap of haves and havenots all in the name of progress and rebuilding. These simultaneous, contradictory messages are maddening as much as they are motivating; I can’t help but use these on-the- ground, daily lessons to inform my perspectives on social innovation and sustainability.

susan2008Being in the inaugural class of the MA Social Innovation and Sustainability program gives me the opportunity to help shape the framework and definitions that will define the kinds of students and studies in years to come. At the same time, being in residency with folks from Health Arts and Sciences, Transformative language Arts and Consciousness Studies, allows my thinking to be pushed even further as I strive to incorporate embodiment and performance studies, as well as community trauma recovery, into my understanding of economics and system change. For every moment that I wish I was being given more outside direction, there is a companion moment in which I deeply appreciate the freedom I have been given to explore the totality of the pressing issues that we face as a society.

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Elizabeth Minnich and the Academic Rigor of Creating Your Own Program

Elizabeth Minnich, author of Transforming Knowledge, one of the most important and influential books about knowledge, ethics, politics and power, recently served as the external reviewer for the Individualized MA program. Minnich is Core Professor at the Graduate College for Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, The Union Institute and University, and she has spoken and consulted with colleges and universities worldwide on developing more inclusive curricula. Here’s what she had to say about Goddard’s IMA program:

Elizabeth MinnichI believe the IMA faculty and the students together honor the idea of “academic rigor” intelligently and may more often exceed than slight requirements because, creating their own programs, they know more about them than those in prescribed programs whose guidelines, etc., can simply be followed… I heard telling descriptions from students of work above and beyond any most faculty would dream of assigning.

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Place in Vibrant and Vulnerable Times: An Interdisciplinary Conversation

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An oldie but goodie: Sonja Swift’s talk on place she gave as part of the Place panel at the February 2013 residency. Sonja completed her Individualized MA at Goddard that year and continued writing, talking, and serving. Read some of her more recent writing here and here.

In speaking of place it feels appropriate, if not essential, to introduce myself within the context of the place I am from: my original place, my place of origin.

This leads me to think about how in today’s world many of us are descendants of immigrants or refugees so place or territory doesn’t overlap with heritage or ancestry in the way it used to. So our original place tends to get left out of introductions, sidelined. We name the cities or towns in which we dwell, the states or nation states, instead.

I think there is something very powerful and worthy in taking the time to more explicitly introduce oneself in terms of place based origin. I think it is a really human way of introducing oneself.

I am a child of North America with European bloodlines. To my American side, I am half Danish. To my Danish side, I am a yank. I consider myself first and foremost a child of this continent and more specifically from a landscape on its western edge.

I grew up amidst oak groves and sagebrush in the California foothills on the central coast. South of Big Sur. North of Point Conception. I fell asleep each night to the howls of coyotes. Red tailed hawks keep a close eye over the valley and the Pacific Ocean is visible from the ridgelines. There were cougars and rattlers to keep eye for. We raised Texas longhorn and subtropical fruit. It was a lonesome paradise. In many ways it was the land the raised me, the land that gave me sanctuary.

The spaciousness of where I grew up gave me room enough to endure a dysfunctional family reality. It also meant that I’d later have to learn how to find that same spaciousness, the spaciousness of rolling hills and open ridgelines, within. It is a process I am still amidst.

So that is where I’m from. It is as much a part of me as the color of my eyes.

The only other place I’ve found a similar sense of place is in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I think, in part, this is because the landscape is familiar in an uncanny way. The perennial grasses are more intact than in California, where overgrazing after the Spaniards arrived took a heavy toll. There are ponderosa instead of live oak, and the vista glimpsed from the ridges isn’t the ocean, it is the wide-open of the Great Plains. But there is that similar endlessness, and similar rolling, grassy, ruggedly beautiful terrain.

I think we are molded by landscape. We embody the places we are from and carry them with us wherever we go. This can be a very powerful thing, especially for people who are exiled from the places they love. I am thinking of a friend of mine, a Tibetan nun, who in all likelihood will never return to her homeland.

I also think that if given the opportunity to connect to the earth at a young age then we can feel at home anywhere. I think this elemental connection is essential to our survival.

There are a lot of people today who don’t seem to feel at home on the earth and I say that because they are doing a fine job wrecking it.

Ultimately though, I think the topic of place opens up a conversation about re-indigenizing ourselves as bodies born of this Earth.

When I think about what I value in indigenous cultures I think of coherent self-awareness rooted in terrain. I think of language being in touch with non-language, sophisticated and intact sensory somatic intelligence, a fearlessness about death, interspecies communication, innate attentiveness to synchronistic events, and a very basic, unquestioned knowing of oneness with all of life.

These qualities are not limited to un-contacted tribes in the heart of the Amazon or the Plains Indians pre genocide. These are universally human characteristics of human in contact with place, characteristics that have been fragmented and forgotten in a myriad of ways.

The real question is how are people today NOT aware of the whole planet as a living organism??

How are people NOT connected to place, to earth, to our shared existence?

I think it has a lot to do with trauma. The recklessness we are dealing with today has to do with the opposite of place: displacement, by way of colonialism primarily, and the trauma that came with it.

So I think the value of discussing place within the context of our times is to remember that we are only as intelligent as we are in contact with the intelligence around us.

We are intelligent in relationship to place.

Asterile, devoid landscape, a bombed and desiccated city, creates a parallel kind of mind. To destroy this animate earth is to wreck our opportunities to learn from and receive intelligence beyond us, but part of us, at once.

We can easily get overly intellectual about this topic but at the end of it all I think it has everything to do with the pure love of being alive.

Posted in Deep Ecology & Bioregionalism, Embodiment Studies & Body Image, Environmental, Sustainability & Place Studies | Tagged | Leave a comment

Complementary Dualism and the Work of Dr. Hillary S. Webb

Hillary S. Webb went onto earn her doctorate after earning her MA in Goddard’s Consciousness Studies concentration. Building on her master’s thesis, her newest book, Yanantin and Masintin in the Andean World: Complementary Dualism in Modern Peru, focuses on her own scholarly and personal journey as well as well as her study of yanantin — complementary opposites. Now she will be returning to Goddard during the August, 2012 fall residency to speak with students and present a workshop on where her studies have taken her, and what she discovered along the way.

Bonnie Glass-Coffin, author of The Gift of Life: Female Spirituality and Healing in Northern Peru, calls Webb’s book, “An outstanding, important work … In addition to adding to the ethnographic literature about these fundamental concepts that inform Andean world views, it adds a fabulous case example that will be cited long into the future”

Stanley Kripner, author of Psychiatrist in Paradise: Treating Mental Illness in Bali, explains that the book “….recounts the compelling scholarly and personal odyssey of Dr. Hillary Webb, an anthropologist who came to understand the Andean complementary worldview as a sophisticated and practical philosophical model and, in doing so, was transformed both personally and professionally. Many readers of this book will no doubt be transformed as well.”

To read an excerpt of the book, “Mind and Body; Flesh and Spirit,” click here.

Posted in Consciousness Studies/Transpersonal Psychology, Cultural & Cross-Cultural Studies, Philosophy & Neurophilosophy | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Jennifer Patterson Interviewed at Poets & Writers

patterson_1-450x450Jennifer Patterson is one of the keynote presenters at the 15th Annual Power of Words conference, Oct. 12-14 at Goddard College. Other Goddard faculty, students, and alumni will be attending and presenting, including Seema Reza, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Joanna Tebbs Young, Ruth Farmer, Emilee Baum, and Angie Ebba. The conference is a project of the Transformative Language Arts Network in partnership with Goddard College.

Check out IMA graduate Jennifer (Jennye) Patterson interview at Poets and Writers about her workshops for writers to help them move toward multi-dimensional creativity, survivorship, and healing. In he interview, she reflects on her thesis, which combined writing, embroidery, and scholarship from embodiment studies, queer studies, survivor studies, and many other fields and traditions:

I recently finished a thesis (and soon to be manuscript) on trauma, somatic writing and embroidery—using stitch as a metaphor for making and remaking the wound—and it was incredibly difficult work so I’ve been taking a little breather. Some weeks the only time I write is in the workshop, which feels a bit funny to admit. But I also get to remember how writing supports me feeling more in my own life, more alive.

Jennye, as she’s described in the article, “a grief worker who uses words, threads, and plants to explore survivorhood, body(ies) and healing.” She is also the editor of Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Violence Movement (Riverdale Avenue Books, 2016), and she leads trauma-focused writing and embroidery workshops widely. Additionally, she is a practitioner with the Breathe Network and through her practie Corpus Ritual Apothecary. Learn more about her at ofthebody.net.

Posted in Activism, Creative Writing, Embodiment Studies & Body Image, Queer Studies, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Danielle Boutet: Alchemy, Art and Knowledge That Matters and Connects

Danielle Boutet is concerned with knowledge that makes sense, means something, and connects us to ourselves and the world. Furthermore, this kind of knowledge isn’t so much in librairies and research papers, but is embodied in knowers. “We all have knowledge inside, and (learning) is a matter of clarifying it…..I don’t know any knowledge that isn’t in a knower somewhere.”

Teaching at Université du Québec à Rimouski, she works with undergraduates and graduates, encouraging them to find this knowledge. In her previous shape-shifting ways, she served Goddard as a student, faculty member, founder and program director of the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts, and academic dean, continually looking at epistemology — how we know what we know — and transformative practices, particularly as they relate to the arts, that transform the artist through the process of creation and discovery.

Danielle contextualizes transformative practices by looking at third-person, second-person and first-person research and knowledge. Most traditional academic fields focus on third-person research: finding out what people think, know or do on a particular topic, compiling and analyzing data. “In my own world, I have this huge criticism of the scientific paradigm and third person research and knowledge that can be stored, that can be written down, that can be transmitted,” Danielle explains. Instead, she recommends looking at what you want to know, why it’s important to you to learn this, and what it means to you — first-person research — as well as what/who you are in relationship to, the conversation between you and this other, and what happens in the space between you — second-person research. One of the writing prompts she often employs is “Je souviens…” — “I remember…” — to help people bring to the page what they’ve lived.

“The knowledge that we’re looking for is the knowledge that really informs the world, and informs our lives,” she says. “The key sentence I give to all my students is, ‘There is no knowledge without the knowledge of knowledge.'”

As an artist, scholar, musician, composer and writer, Danielle thinks in terms of alchemy: “A way of knowing that uses matter and material transformation as a way to know things. It cannot be abstract. It has to be felt, it has to be experienced….It is this notion of art as a way of knowing that I’m always after.” She explains that the origins of art as a way of knowing go back to the first humans and our inate intuition. “If we go back to 100,00 years ago, the Neandrethals had the belief there was something else [besides what they could see], a whole theory of art based on the belief in the invisible….They had the intuition that there is something to be read in what they see. If they see charred bones, they’re looking at them and thinking they must say something. That intuition has been with human beings throughout the entire history. That’s the connection with the sacred.”

How this translates into today? “We ourselves collect an incredible archive of knowledge, and it has relevance in the world.” To learn more, read Danielle’s excellent essay, “Epistemic Companions: Art and the Sacred.”

Posted in Creativity & Imagination, Epistemology (how we know what we know), Spirituality & Religion | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Interview with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

imageCMG Negative Capability Press Blog IVGGI Faculty Member, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg was a featured poet on Negative Capability Press’ blog.

AL: First things first, imagine we could have met anywhere in the world for this interview, where would it have been and what would we be sipping on?

CMG: It would be on my front porch, which faces emerging woodlands composed of mostly cedar and Osage orange trees and a whole lot of bramble. As far as what we’re sipping on, I’m afraid that would be kind of boring: iced tea, but maybe we’d get wild and have a twist of lime in our tea. More to the point for me would be what we’re eating, and since I’ve been thinking a lot about my forthcoming novel, Miriam’s Well, in which my main character cooks and bakes for people throughout the book – and the book also has 40 pages of her recipes in it – I’m going to say we’ll be snacking on chocolate-raspberry rugalach, a Jewish buttery cookie, rolled up and baked into a crescent. Ideally, it would be about 70 degrees with a light breeze and a whole lot of bird song, and my cats would be jumping through the window between the porch and one of the bedrooms, circling us suspiciously but eventually settling down with my big dog, a weimaraner-chocolate lab mix who just showed up at our house one day about six years ago.

To read the entire interview, go here

Posted in Arts-Based Inquiry, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Community Building, Creativity & Imagination, Deep Ecology & Bioregionalism, Environmental, Sustainability & Place Studies, Goddard Graduate Institute, Memoir, Life Writing & Autobiography, Miriam's Well, nature, Poetry, Right Livelihood/ Making a Living, Transformative Language Arts | Leave a comment